Asiful Islam Sohan, aka Black Zang, has been rapping ever since the very term rap was not introduced in the country. His hip hop crew Uptown Lokolz, one of the earliest hip hop crew of the country, has only grown more and more popular over the years even though it belongs to a scene (hip hop) which is just getting its roots in the country. He has pioneered a number of hip hop movements. That’s not all. Black Zang has made Bangladesh proud on a number of occasions. From representing our country in the USA tour to his interview taken by the prestigious Al Jazeera channel, Black Zang has proven that by dint of hard work you can make an entire nation proud. Recently this correspondent caught up with this artist and here is a chunk of that interview.
How has the journey been as a rapper?
Black Zang: Rap is just a part of Hip Hop. I love art and creativity. Hip-hop allowed me to reach a huge number of people dedicated with art and creativity. Back then me and my crew mate started promoting all the elements (beatboxing, graffiti art, b-boy, producers, visuals creator, Supporters) of hip hop in Bangladesh.
Focusing only in making songs just creates followers for an individual artists but if we don’t have huge hip hop audience, then the artist’s effort will be fruitless. Through my hip-hop based radio show I was able to reach even international followers. For the last three years the journey has been tremendous. We have a huge ip Hop madness not just all over the country but also in USA, Europe, UAE and of course South East Asia. That movement has helped various hip-hop enthusiasts find a platform for themselves. Hip Hop is about motivating each other. So it spreads fast. As a pioneer of this movement, I feel really blessed. It’s a responsibility also for me to do it in the right way.
What prompted you to begin your career in hip hop?
Black Zang: I am an art and creativity freak from my childhood. I always make art work and graffiti. Getting involved with hip-hop was a U-turn in my life. It taught me how to deal with my life and career smoothly in every situation and helped me be positive about any circumstances. My crew mate Asif Ifteza, aka Bigg Spade, has motivated me all throughout the way. He was the first person who recognized my art and dedication.
Could you share with us some experiences from the USA tour 2015?
Black Zang: That was an experience of a lifetime for me. In 2015, I got invited from State Department of USA to attend a Culture Exchange program for two weeks. The title name of the show was ‘Next Level’ directed by Mark Kats, Professor of University of North Carolina. The program took place in Washington D.C and North Carolina. I had musical cypher sessions, studio session, speak sessions in different organizations and most importantly shows in different places in universities, school and lounges. It was not only about me. They also invited 5 more hip-hop artists from five countries. They called the team Global Next Level team. We created a brilliant relationship with all the artists and people we met over there. Another great part was that after the program I had a trip to Los Angeles, California. The whole trip was productive. I would specially thank MOGZ and Kearra for the love they gave me on my L.A trip.
How did Planet Hip Hop start and what is it about?
Black Zang: Colours Fm 101.6 wanted me to get down with a hip hop based Radio show back in 2014. I was never a radio personality but this show changed me quite a lot! This show is strictly based on hip-hop. We promote hip-hop music from our country as well as other countries.
What is your recent music video BZ Bars about?
Black Zang: Well, I personally don’t like to make songs for popularity. I put my heart and soul into my songs. My upcoming music video titled ‘BZ Bars’ is produced by MOGZ. The lyrics is all about how we keep it real and not appreciate fake rappers who claim to be hip-hop artists. It unravels another side of me which I had never shown before. Visually I kept it raw and artistic. We come from an average background and then become singular through unique dreams. My music video is all about this- the struggles we have to face to achieve our dreams. It is an urban tale, told in hip-hop beats.
You have been recently invited to the International Hip Hop show in London. How does it feel to be representing Bangladesh as well as Bangla hip-hop outside the country?
Black Zang: This year I have got an invitation from South Bank Center to attend an international Hip Hop tour “Beats Without Boundaries” scheduled to be held in May in London. I have 4 shows in different days and venues. I have been paired with a UK based local artist AWATE for the collaboration of the show’s live performance. I am extremely excited about the tour. It’s a chance for me to represent Bangladesh Hip Hop to the international platform once again. I hope I can learn more about Hip Hop and movements through this tour. I am also planning to shoot some of my solo music videos during the tour. I am going to make it worth. There was a time when people told me to leave hip hop because it won’t get recognition in our country but I have proved them wrong. Now we are getting recognition globally. We have a buzzing hip hop community now with great talents. A lot more people still need to be educated about it as hip-hop is surely going to be the next big thing in our country.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
Black Zang: My mom saw me struggling for my passion. She always believed in my dedication. Now she is a proud mother. All my hard work is dedicated to her. Making her proud is the biggest achievement for me. All the recognition I am getting internationally is really inspiring for me to move further.